New Guide to Renting Farmland

For many beginning farmers, leasing can be an affordable way to gain access to productive farmland and associated infrastructure and equipment. For landowners, leasing can help offset the costs of ownership while keeping farmland in production. But how to determine a fair rental rate?

farmscapeUVM Extension’s new How to Determine the Right Farm Rental Rate Guide was developed to support both farmers and landowners through the process of determining a fair cash rental rate for farmland, equipment and infrastructure in Vermont. The same methods might apply to other states in New England, the Northeast, or other parts of the U.S.

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It’s a good thing you can juggle…

JugglingIt’s official. We have arrived at that time of year when you think you can’t possibly do one more thing. You’re exhausted. Your back hurts (not just in the morning now but all the time), the weeds are out of control, something is trying to eat the chickens, and the beef cows seem able to find the smallest weakness in the fence. All those great ideas for keeping the kids entertained during summer break have turned into “has anyone seen the kids this week?” …but then the tractor breaks, or your apprentice runs off with your field manager, or your very pregnant sister-in-law trips over the dog, breaks her wrist and now needs “a little help” around the house.

Yes, it’s a very good thing you can juggle. Multi-tasking may not be a recommended skill but it is one that women farmers must embrace if they are going to survive “the season”. So, it’s good to know that nature has given us an edge in this arena. Women’s brains are a little better designed for keeping multiple items “on the front burner”. But the ability to do something does not mean the activity is not taking a toll on you. Stress builds up over the summer and many of the women farmers we work with begin to feel overwhelmed at this time of year. It’s important to interrupt the cycle of stress before it starts doing lasting damage to your health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life take a few minutes each week to build in a few of these stress-busters:

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Digging into a Summer of Soil Health

Soil Food Web

Soil Food Web by Elaine Ingham

You don’t have to be a farmer to appreciate the importance of soil health. Of course, most farmers I know really love their soil and treat it with the upmost care. But increasingly, the general public is realizing what farmers and gardeners have known for years, good food starts with good soil. It seems like everyone from Fine Gardening and the New York Times to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is talking about the soil food web and the connections between soil health and human health.

Building Soils for Better Crops

Building Soils for Better Crops, by Fred Magdoff & Harold Van Es

To dig into this topic, I am dedicating my summer reading to two SARE publications that take closer looks at building soils through practices like cover cropping. The first is “Building Soils for Better Crops: Sustainable Soil Management,” by Fred Magdoff and Harold Van Es. Originally published in 1993, the book is now in its third edition and has remained a SARE classic over these 20+ years. The reason? I think it has something to do with the practical style that Magdoff and Van Es deliver soup to nuts information on the ingredients to good soil, plus extremely helpful color photos and illustrations (I, for one, am impressed by anyone who can snap good shots of soil that don’t look like dirt heaps!). They also provide user-friendly tips to managing soils through practices like crop rotations, use of compost and animal manures, reduced tillage, and cover crops.

Managing Crover Crops

Managing Cover Crops Profitably

Speaking of cover crops, the other book on my summer re-reading list is “Managing Cover Crops Profitably,” edited by SARE’s Andy Clark. Also in its third edition, this handbook spells out the many benefits to the soil of using cover crops–preventing erosion, conserving moisture, improving soil structure, and scavenging nutrients, just to name a few. It also profiles the major cover crops available today, from the non-leguminous covers like rye, brassicas, buckwheat, and winter wheat–to legumes like clovers, hairy vetch, and cowpeas. Best of all, it contains a series of charts aimed to help readers select the right cover crops to meet their unique needs. Both books are available online as free PDFs on the SARE website as well as in hard copy through SARE’s webstore.


UVM Extension agronomist Heather Darby at Annual Field Day

I am eager to learn more in the field too! For example, I will be attending the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Annual Field Day. The event, to be held at the Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh on July 24, will focus on–you guessed it!–Feeding the Soils, the Plants, and the Communities. The day includes highlights of the many research trials being conducted there–including cover crop mixes, interseeding, no-till cropping, etc.–and will also feature a soil health tour looking at strategies to improve soils. The day is free for farmers, and 25 per person for the rest of us (includes a local lunch).



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